‘Exploitation Stinks’ – Brave project with Moorland Primary School

13 June 2022

'Exploitation stinks but there's a way to solve it
Tell a teacher, trusted adult, if things don't look right
There are people who can keep you safe you can always get help’

It is believed that one in four cases of trafficking reported in the UK now involves children. Inspired by the opera Madam Butterfly, which formed part of Welsh National Opera’s Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022 Season,Brave was created to highlight the issue of child exploitation to primary-aged children in an age-appropriate way, introduced to them via the storyline of Puccini’s enduring opera.

With the aim of educating and enlightening children about exploitation, WNO Producer Jennifer Hill, composer Helen Woods, soprano Claire Watkins, pianist Sian Davies, violinist Emma Menzies and cellist Beatrice Newman, together with Heather Lewis, Executive Director of Brave Bear Trust created this creative pilot project which saw the team engage with fifty 10–11-year-olds (Year 6) from Moorland Primary School and their hugely supportive teachers, Lou Morgan and Lawrence Hayes. 

The children received an introduction to opera which saw them explore the music and story of Un Bel Di and The Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly; two in-depth sessions with Heather Lewis, exploring exploitation in its many forms, how they can recognise it and tell someone about it. As part of these sessions, the children studied Heather’s book, Brave – a story of Friendship and Freedom, which centres on a child who falls into the hands of a trafficker and is taken abroad tricked into a life of domestic servitude but who ultimately escapes, which provided the narrative of their new opera. The children also participated in music workshops with our composer to create lyrics and music for their brand-new opera (which are quoted above). The culmination of the project was marked with two special performances for parents and friends – the first-time parents had been allowed back into the school buildings since the first Coronavirus lockdown in March 2020.

Through this awareness-raising project the children gained an awareness of a very real problem happening in the world to adults and children alike, not just in faraway places but on their doorsteps and they were able to do this in a safe and supportive space with the opportunity to ask questions. While the subject matter was serious there was a huge amount of fun and high spirits in these sessions and a real sense of pride and achievement from the children when they got to perform their work for their families.

With millions of people finding themselves entrapped by unscrupulous people prepared to use them as commodities to their own ends and for financial gain, find out more about Modern Day Slavery here. Brave Bear Trust also offer a free Modern-Slavery Awareness Training module on their website.